My sweetie took me out for Valentine’s lunch to my favorite restaurant, L’ Eden, an authentic French cafe in beautiful downtown Tampa. The cafe sits on the corner of Tampa and Madison Streets and if one is lucky enough to score a corner table, the urban view and setting is ever so slightly reminiscent of a cafe in Paris where I once dined on omelets overlooking the Seine and Notre Dame Cathedral.
Ok, I said slightly!
I love L’Eden and I’ve eaten there for years. Have I ever told you how much I love French food? If not, you probably guessed it already given the amount of time I spend on this blog lauding the wonders of butter and cream!
The owner of L’Eden is also a French Chef who plans the menu and prepares the food himself. I’ve quizzed him on a couple of occasions about his Food Philosophy (oh yes, there is such a thing!), and he appears careful and thoughtful about the food he serves his customers. He is not one to go for cheap food substitutions to boost profits. He is sincere and earnest in the practice of his craft.
Knowing all this, you can imagine my shock and surprise when I saw Mr. Awesome French Chef himself pull up to the curb in front of the restaurant yesterday while I was enjoying an amazing crock of mushroom and brie soup (made with REAL beef stock) and unload his fresh food for the day’s cooking activities.
Mixed in amidst all the several boxes of fresh produce, was, GASP, 2 huge jars of Hellmann’s mayonnaise!
In case you’re wondering what all the fuss about Hellmann’s mayonnaise is about (it’s supposedly American’s favorite brand of mayo), let me post the ingredients here:
Hellmann’s Real Mayo (yes, they actually call it “Real”, are they kidding?)
INGREDIENTS: SOYBEAN OIL, WATER, WHOLE EGGS AND EGG YOLKS, VINEGAR, SALT, SUGAR, LEMON JUICE, NATURAL FLAVORS, CALCIUM DISODIUM EDTA (USED TO PROTECT QUALITY).
Soybean oil? Natural flavors? Calcium Disodium EDTA?
I almost cried in my soup. How could any French Chef worth his salt buy mayonnaise made with soybean oil? Soybean oil is a cheap, rancid vegetable oil that should never be ingested for any reason at any time. Even if not partially hydrogenated, soybean oil is almost assuredly GM as well as interesterified, which is arguably a method of processing edible oils that is even worse for cardiovascular health than transfats.
Natural flavors is another big one to avoid when perusing food labels to ascertain quality. The translation of “Natural Flavors” on a label is this:
“We don’t want you to know what’s really in this, so we’re just going to call it Natural Flavors and hope you gloss over it.”
On to calcium disodium EDTA .. what is this stuff anyway? It is basically a preservative that prevents spoilage from oxidation of the food molecules. Calcium disodium EDTA is an organic pollutant which breaks down in the environment into ethylenediamine triacetic acid and then diketopiperazine. Diketopiperazine is a persistent organic pollutant, similar to PCBs and DDT.
Hellmann’s Mayo: Compromise or Sell Out?
Environmental Engineering Science, May/June 2006
Interesterification, February 2008